Me and Computers; less is "More"!
(I love a computer for writing, my fingers can fly as fast as my brain. Yet, I do not like a computer when i struggle to learn a new program, or repeatedly cant seem to make something work. For me this seems quite often. They change things as quickly as you learn them, and don't know if you have a similar opinion, but I find those changes come with more clicks of the mouse, not less. I don't think computer developers have ever heard of the saying "less is more". Cause they looove "more". More clicks, more complicated doodads, more tools to make things "more". Seriously, for most folks "more" is just not really needed. Feel free to correct me on this, as I am sure some of you love having "more". But those fancy new buttons are like coffee machines that have a dial for weak/medium/strong coffee. Really folks, just put in less coffee!
So as it comes to computers, I don't typically find things intuitive or easy, so when I was working on a new drag and drop weebly website builder I was pleasantly surprised. There are a few things to understand, but pretty intuitive, really drag and drop and dead easy. So with my new toy, I created a new online "pre-pay" ability and was surprised how easy it was to set up. Exciting yes, it would definitely save time on dealing with money with classes. However, I didn't put into the equation that I needed to limit seat sales. So un-techy me had found waaayyy to many folks paying into very limited seats. A big "Thank You", to those of you who graciously willing to be moved around. Moral of this story, computers are great tools, learning curves are often learning mountains, however the view from the top is usually worth the climb!
I just finished presenting at a local Conference for Recreational Therapists. I presented on Therapeutic Art with Seniors. Working day to day with Seniors diagnosed with Dementia is not an easy task, yet this group came together to share their experiences and learn more about how to increase creative programming into their senior care facilities. Laura Booi who is finishing her Doctorate at Simon Fraser also spoke about Global Attitudes impacting Dementia care. There is such stigma surrounding Dementia that impedes individuals getting the support they need, more research is needed around Dementia, which will impact all our families at some point in our future.
My focus on that day was on creating Age Appropriate Therapeutic Art for Seniors. So often art programs working with seniors becomes "preschool art". Childlike, cutsie, and simplistic, it so often (to me) belittles the rich histories and life experiences these seniors have lived through. My goals in my work with seniors has been to create what I term "Simple Sophistication", this is art that takes into account their long held beliefs and reactions to art and art making, and incorporates increasing art appreciation. It doesn't make the projects harder, but they are created in a way that honours the adults they are and the limitations they face.
It has been an interesting two years working at a local senior residence, with such amazing results beyond the creativity. We have seen so many positive outcomes from this adventure: increased alertness, increased communication, ability to stay present longer, remembering their projects and revisiting projects afterwards, increased socialization over the projects, wonderful intrinsic outcomes like boosts in self-esteem, confidence, happiness, and contentment. We watched them move from being tentative to fully engaged and excited about projects. So so many positives.... one day I will have to write a book. We've done such wonderful projects and had such wonderful connections through them.
Art Making is changing their brain!
Here are a few simple samples of some we've done...each have 3 levels incorporated into them.
Sometimes I feel like I am cleaning "all the time". In the house, in my studio, after classes, mobile events, and also after myself (thats a biggy). Reminds me of the children's book "I wish I were a butterfly" where the spider, after her webs gets broken (again), sighs and says "Ah well, it's a spider's life"....so to it I say, "Ah well, it's an artists life". Anyways, I thought I would share one of my favorite little gems of my studio; my "scrubby". I found it in my local kitchen store and unlike the round crochet nylon scrubbies (which I have used) this soft, yet coated little fabric square gets tables, brushes, containers, jars, my hands, etc...clean wonderfully. I like the thin ones as they are softer and more flexible (some are stiffish). I have them on hand everywhere, one at the kitchen sink, in the shower (cause I always find paint up my arms), in my travel kit, and, of course, my studio sink. I also take them with me when I teach, as it makes acrylic clean up a snap. These little scrubbies are imperative to have in my mobile kit. Everyones asks about them, so I am sharing them with you. Love love love these little guys. "Euro scrubby", check out your local kitchen shop, if not mine has it: "What's Cooking" the Store for Cooks (awesome store!!)...right in the heart of Qualicum Beach...they also have a fb page (same name). I'm sure Pat can send you a couple!
Oops, That Doesn’t Look Right!
At some point you will get it wrong, the composition, colour mix, perspective, or you just got carried away with your brush stroke…something. Abtract or Realistic, there are times while you are painting, that it dawns on you, what you’ve been working on is just not getting better but progressively worse. It's lost something, it needs something, "something" isn't right, in fact it's "wrong". This is a crucial moment. I call it the dual moment of: “I can’t give up on it now” moment, and the “this painting sucks,” moment. All that time and effort, expense of canvas and paint starts to pull us emotionally, and if we aren't aware of that pull, we may enter that place of "no return". So what do you do now? Working in acylics is often about time, wait a bit and you can just paint over it. But, is this really the best thing to do? Sometimes. There are really good reasons that you might not want to do this just yet. Before you decide to listen to that energy telling you to either get radical or just "paint it over", (and I’ve done both), I find the best thing is to just STOP, take a breather, not just a cup of tea breather, but let it sit off the side breather. This is a very tough thing to do and in that moment you wish to "fix it".
It helps to have a strategy when this hits, a kind of list of steps or progessions to determine what is the next step....these are mine:
I have my Grandmother’s China, it’s cracked and aged and some pieces are even chipped, but it’s my “fine china” and I tend to use it for dinners and special occasions, and as the mood strikes. I was determined to use it often so it didn’t develop that “sacred” quality, to be more ornamental than useful. I think when we put too much emphasis on saving things for “special occasions” we cheat ourselves from realizing that special occasions are happening all the time. I find whenever I deem something too precious; I tend to not use it like it could be used.
As I ponder this, I realize that I have a few “sacred cows” around my home that never get used, a beautiful journal book with gilded edges still empty because I don’t wish to ruin it, handmade writing paper a friend gifted me, clearly too lovely to write on, a hand bound leather book for sketches that I will use when I'm "much better", table clothes as gifts too pretty to get dirty...to my own surprise I realize that list is long.
How much of our lives do we save for better moments to enjoy them. What parts do we set aside just in case. It reminds me about something my Grandmother said, that she couldn’t tell her children (or grandchildren) that they did well, because complimenting them would just go to their heads. It’s better to not say anything. At the time, being younger, I knew this to be false, but now I want to shout “what were you afraid of?” “What would have happened?” “If you did say that wonderful thing, that encouragement, what would it have changed for you, for them?”
We so need to use our precious things, our "sacred cows", whenever we can. We need to share and not save our precious things for a better moment, cause Now is the moment!. We need to say the things we feel, share our pride and let others know our joy. Let's encourage!
Yes, it will change things. It will make those simple moments memorable special occasions.
Yup, I am a Messy Painter
Yup, I’m a messy painter. I admit it, don’t like it, but there you have it. I didn’t really think about it much, it just was. It's not unusual to have my son arrive home from school and state, “Oh, by the way, you have paint on your face”. It was a common occurrence, I didn’t really mind the fact. But, then I started to notice folks around me paint ...an exhibition here, a workshop there, I even watched a video that would show them painting live. It got me wondering, where were their aprons? Or what possessed them to wear white, of all things, while they painted? Compared to these calm, contained, creative souls, I’m a "crazy girl" when it comes to paint! I have a closet full of “painting clothes” that continues to grow, mainly items that I wore just “touching up” a piece. Inevitably, I get paint on the sleeve or splattered down the front that didn’t catch my notice until it was far too late. It’s a frustrating part of being me.
To make matter worse, I have a friend who paints in white; she never gets paint on herself. Clearly never her elbow, much less her clothes...on her nose. Never! Her paints stay organized and her brushes in line. Speaking of her brushes, they don’t look 10 years old after a month of use. I dislike her...ok, not true, I envy her. I admire her ability to stay so clean and tidy and still urn out great art! Sigh.
I tried. Really I did. I just can’t do it. I regularly clean my studio, organize paints, mediums, sponges and brushes, I sort tools so everything is handy and efficient. I have great intentions, but then....I begin to paint. I mix and pour, and brush and I smudge and wipe and grab and throw and splash and yes...make a huge mess! It’s wonderful!! It’s a full body experience, fast and furious, with large brush strong strokes. Sometimes I switch hands, sometimes two arms work at once, mingling and melting colours. It’s a glorious blur until I take a moment, a step back, a breath,... I pause and look down. Oh crap, I’ve got paint on my shoes….Oh, man, is that purple splatter on my side, how did paint get there? Rats, it’s hard already.
Yup, I am a messy painter. I love colour and I guess colour loves me too, because it just seems to find the weirdest places to stick and dry.
Oh, by the way, I just bought a new shirt….wish it well!
Trust the Process
If anything I've learned over the past few years is that one must work hard to trust the process. It doesn't come easily. In fact, it demands a counter intuitive move on your part.
I find so often that when I paint, there often comes a moment where the painting is in such an "ugly" stage, unrefined, contrasts are not yet creating the effects I desire and the "feeling" is... just off. It's easy to just decide that the painting beyond repair or any redemption and yet, this is the moment of transition. It takes a bold leap of courage to dive back in and to ignore that negative voice, and to not reach for that tiny little brush of refinement rather to grap the larger brush. Yet, so often, this it is exactly what the painting is screaming for. Energy unleashed, abandoned joy, a step of courage... and a very large dose of "trusting the process". You will be so glad that you did!
Ignoring the Critical Head
How to ignore your "Critical Talking Head" when creating!
I often describe myself as a “rubix cube girl", always thinking, analyzing, questioning. Painting helps quiet that little cube for a bit, but I still find that my head has a mind of its own. When painting a critical head is important, just not so early. We need to play, play, play and play som more before we start to analysis and listen to voice.
My technique to counteract my “talking head”, is an imaginary shelf where I place all my critisicms and first judgements. You know the ones…they pop out of your mouth while you are painting, “Ugh” “that’s not right”, “Ahhh”. Some are clearly more colourful expletives, but all follow a flurry of activity to wipe all traces of that perceived mistake away.
Then there are also the positive comments, “oh, that’s good, or “do a little more of that”. I tend to listen to these and do more of what I am liking. Sometimes this positive dialogue is a good thing, at other times, it’s just plain distracting. So like a good baseball coach might say, “Just throw, don’t think”. I try to “pitch” my paint without a lot of inner dialogues. Then I give it play time, long enough to feel that I’ve had enough distance to really be discerning.
So, I invite you to create an imaginary shelf for yourself…just somewhere off to the side that you immediately capture that negative thought and place it there. You can always retrieve it should you need it... if you truly think it will help, but try this first. I think you will realize that painting without always having a running critical commentary is very freeing.
Make your shelf: picture a plain ordinary shelf, colour it, add details (wood, metal, etc)…maybe it has a container where you drop thoughts into it. Find where it rests the best in your minds eye?..to the left, the right of you, behind you? How do you transfer those thoughts? Does the thought go onto a piece of paper, a wind blows it into a jar ...Do you need a sound of a lid clamping down help to shut the thought out? Play with it a bit.
All I know is that creating without criticism allows me to paint better, for it is then that I don’t fear to make the mistakes it takes to learn something new.
"Outside the Canvas" is the bits and pieces of my eclectic musings, my work, poetry...and hopefully, some interesting discoveries I make as an artist shred along the way. I'll try to keep it short and sweet, since my son pointed out "nobody wants to reads blog novels Mom".